Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Grand Theft
Hiking Into Eternity

Released 1996 on Epilogue Records
Reviewed by achuma, 06/09/2006ce

First things first – the music on this CD is not from the nineties, but the seventies. ‘Hiking Into Eternity’ is the best-buy option for checking out the demented glory of Grand Theft, as it compiles their legendary rare self-titled album (which has been previously reissued as ‘Scream (It’s Eating Me Alive)’) with excerpts from their never-released second album, as well as some earlier demo rehearsal recordings. And you know you’re onto something a bit left-field just from the cover, with it’s drawing of a winged rat arched in mid-air, humorously replicating the pose of the famous Swan Song label motif.
Hailing from Mercer Island, Washington, it has been said that Grand Theft (initially Grand Theft Auto) were a kind of joke band, who were actually a straighter-sounding ‘rural rock’ band called Bluebird the rest of the time. The joke band element is that they take off some of the clichés of heavy rock bands of the era – with Led Zeppelin, Grand Funk and Black Sabbath as obvious targets/inspirations – but it’s clear from listening to this CD that they weren’t doing it to look down their noses at that kind of music. Indeed they’re clearly revelling in the fun of it all and it’s obvious from the intensity of the playing and the looseness and readiness with which it all flows that these guys had to have been fans of heavy rock as well. Perhaps they needed the freedom of working under aliases and a different band monicker to rock out to such extremes and take the piss at the same time. Some of the best and most likeable rock comes from musicians who can laugh at what they’re doing, but still mean it, if you know what I mean.
So, to Grand Theft the myth... Enter guitarist/singer/songwriter Crowbar Mahoon, bassist Riley Sedgemont III and drummer P.K. Skins! Not only that, but their producer D.B. Fader also sometimes contributed piano, vocals and songwriting skills, Cheese Toaster handled roadie duties and occasional screaming, and later a second guitarist joined the bunch, Loudus Volumous! Connections at the local radio station, KOL, gave their one and only single – ‘Closer To Herfy’s’ b/w ‘Scream (It’s Eating Me Alive)’ – some airplay and it quickly became popular in the Seattle scene. Their sole album – ‘Grand Theft’ – came out in the middle of 1972 as a private pressing with no label, and I believe, no cover art. This, too, was reputedly a popular item locally while it was available. The band, however, only played live twice, turning down an opportunity to tour the country. They recorded some material intended for a second album, to be titled ‘Grand Theft II’ a.k.a. ‘Give Ironman Back To The Irish’, which was never released, as well as reputedly recording material for another album that’s become known as ‘Four Cries Ache (It Doesn’t Take Talent)’ (which might not even exist) and a live recording, ‘Live at the Prudential East’, which I presume is only available from live bootleg tape traders... If it exists at all, because it’s possible that all of the above isn’t true and might be a concocted band history to go along with the whole joke.

The first 4 tracks on this CD are basement rehearsal demos with a small audience (presumably of friends), recorded in February ’72, and are FAR tamer and more conventional than the rest of the stuff here. That being said, they’re still mostly good. ‘Leavin’ This Town’ [6:52] consists of pretty good hard, crude fuzzed power trio jamming from the Americanised sub-Cream school, not too far from Denmark’s Blues Addicts in style and sound. ‘Chain Driven Baby’ [5:56] is a slow blues number the likes of which we’ve probably all heard hundreds of times before.
‘Damn The Nation’ [10:13] is a mid-paced instrumental r&b jam sounding kinda like a lame duck (or Canada’s Mock Duck?) Ten Years After, though not without some degree of success and some savage atonal guitar detunings here and there. The bass and drum solos are fairly boring, though, speaking as someone who does have a tolerance for such things!
‘Anxiety’ [5:56] begins with pounding drums and nasty fuzz bass and guitar on a downward descent, before they start fucking up all over the place, quickly scrambling to hold together this attempted downer groove which they probably made up two minutes ago and can barely play. That doesn’t stop them from going for it though, and they proceed to messily rock their guts out for the remainder of the song. Some of you might think this is great, other will think it’s a pile of inept crap. Either way, it doesn’t matter, because these are just the preliminaries.

The next 4 tracks comprise the album in its short entirety, recorded in May ‘72. Here’s where the legend begins, and shit, what a beginning, with the title of the first track – ‘Scream (It’s Eating Me Alive)’ [4:38] – being literally screamed through the speakers with violent demented force. Actually, it execution the cream comes after, so it’s really “It’s eating me alive.... AAAAAAAGGGHHHH!!!”, which leads straight into a savage riff with grinding demon guitar, fuzz-chording bass, drums splashing all over and raw yelping vocals. Much of the song gives way to a ferocious acid jam that’s making me think of ‘Let Me In’-era Poobah mixed with New Gods, buzzsawing chunks out of your speaker cabinets until the end of the track.
‘Closer To Herfy’s’ [10:11] is the epic tale of a late night journey to the nearest burger bar, musically a building slow-burn of melancholy downer rock pastiching Grand Funk’s ‘Closer To Home’ and it’s ilk. The lyrics are a hilarious mix of straight-faced satire, bearing all the seriousness of a sad, life-and-death quest, with ridiculous over-the-top peaks.
“Drivin’ in my car
I didn’t drive far
I looked all around
There must be one
In this here town
Went drivin’ by the lake
Lookin’ for a milk shake
[? can’t decipher this line]
I think I can fly
Straight to where they serve the French fries!!!”
After some minutes of building it up, the bass getting beefier and more exploratory, the whole thing feeling like nothing less than the bong-smoke wreathed soundtrack to early 70’s American youth, the singer declares
“I want to share my boogers and my fries with you!!!”
before it swings into uber-heavyland, subsiding perfectly into a mellow harmony sequence that’s a direct piss-take of ‘Closer To Home’, except substituting the altered title (sounding at times suspiciously like “we’re getting closer to herpes”!), then back into a total blitzkrieg of manic heavy jamming of the kind that could have inspired JPT Scare Band, bringing the song to a gloriously over-the-top finish.
‘Log Rhythms/Meat Midgets’ [7:27] follows, beginning as a simple dumbo blues-grunge bass riff repeating over solid drums as guitar grinds lowdown chords and solos at will, occasional vocals yelping the virtues of ‘log rhythms’ as they boogie their way into the stratosphere and under the crusts of the earth. You could say this time they’re having a chuckle at the then-common urge to jam to death on big dumb ‘tribal rock’ riffs, but they’re obviously getting into it, I am too, and it just keeps swinging wilder and wilder, the bass taking off into a juggernaut of a fuzzed solo before a brief return to some frenzied vocals and it all whips up to a howling crescendo of fuzz, feedback and reverb.
‘Depression City RFD/Ohms’ [8:13] starts out as a blues boogie talkin’-to-the-audience thing like you might expect from Canned Heat, explaining the blues in terms that any spoilt western youth can relate to...
“Everybody has the blues at one time or another in their life....
Now, you take that little 15 year old girl cryin’ there in the powder room...
Well, her grass connection’s gone to Whitecamp for the summer.
Now, she’s got the blues!
Now, you dig that young stud, throwing a temper tantrum at the movie...
Now, he’s got a case of beer in the trunk, but the lid’s stuck shut...
Now that cat’s got the blues...”
At one point the singer tells the musicians to “talk to me!”, as you do, but they all stop playing and ask him, confused, what he wants to talk about. “That’s not what I meant! I mean, ‘talk to me’!” he replies, and with a dumb “Oooh, right...” the guitarist proceeds to whip out a ridiculously over-the-top half-inept half-brilliant solo before the band lock into a chugging freight train groove and burn it all to ashes by the 4-minute mark. From here comes the ‘Ohms’ section, the mood changing drastically to navel-gazing cosmicness, man, as group chanting oooooms along mystically and [ir]reverently, meditative bass chords strumming alongside other random messing about, reverb soaking everything in a haze of psychedelic portent. In the background, someone says “we’ve got three minutes left, we can do another hit!” as it all unfolds shambolically and hilariously, the vocalist spouting pearly gems like “Chant it baby, like I really want to get to know your mind... bend over” before taking a demented turn, squealing and laughing manically as ruthlessly savage guitar chords slash forth in doomy slowness as the track peters to a quiet close, with the muffled scream of “I don’t wanna hear any more!!!!”, the singer now led back to his padded room by a couple of brick-shithouse white-coated orderlies.

The final 2 tracks are excerpts from the second-album-that-wasn’t-to-be, recorded in April ’73, and feature second guitarist Loudus Volumous.
‘Return Of The Meat Midgets’ [5:35] starts right out with the urine being purloined, so to speak, as the boys yelp tunelessly “steal away baby, steal away”, before stomping into a rollicking heavy rock jam, occasionally joined by desperately unhinged vocals, and they pretty much just belt it out to the max in that typical early 70’s style stepping on from Led Zep in a more down and dirty way (ie. more gusto, less studio muso structured perfection).
‘Ben The Rat Meets Led Zeppelin’ [8:08] is, lyrically, a semi-coherent tale of a big rat and his visit to the “House of Led Zeppelin”, where he encounters Jimmy Page “in an altered state of consciousness” before plugging his guitar into his rectum and ripping out some first-class heavy boogie rock wailing, before the guys bring it down for a bit after several minutes, jamming along steadily as the vocalist rambles over the top, making it up as he goes along, before reverse sounds suck it down the plughole. After this there’s a few minutes of unfocussed fucking around and pastiching of various popular musical traditions, including a jaunty “Why do burgers suddenly appear, every time you are near”, followed by the fun of
“Wild fries, you get me so high, yeah...
I’ll come down to you
Ooh, come on and grease me...
Wild fries
You make my guts sigh
You make everything wrongful
Wild fries”
And it comes with a kazoo solo!
The track listing promises further unlisted bonus tracks after this, but actually (and unfortunately), that’s it. Maybe they were thinking of that extra stuff at the end of the last track, but forgot to index it seperately. The liner notes also promise the future release of more archived recordings, but as far as I know nothing else has come out yet. If you can still find a copy of this one, though, don’t let it slip through your fingers! They might have just been intended as a big joke, but Grand Theft also rocked their heinies off more than most, and I take my hat off to them (or I would if I were wearing one – and I’d rather not take my headphones off lest I miss some seconds of precious music).

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